Violence Against the Land and People

Opinion & Analysis Nov 23, 2018 at 4:16 pm
By Aisha Kaalim

By Aisha Kaalim

(Following speech was delivered by youth group Anakbayan-Toronto at the 2018 Toronto People’s Climate Assembly at University of Toronto, an annual social justice event, which asserts that climate change is not a future social and ecological crisis, but a current one and that those most impacted are those most marginalized; thus it seeks to center the voices and wisdom of those most impacted, and solutions from the grassroots. This version of the speech was edited for brevity.)

Good Morning, I am Aisha from Anakbayan-Toronto, thank you for the organizers for inviting us in this event. As mentioned, Anakbayan is a comprehensive, national democratic organization for Filipino and non-Filipino youth.

To start, there has been some disturbing news from the Philippines lately. Like what happened in Sagay City in the province of Negros Occidental where nine farmers were killed and three were wounded in Hacienda Nene. These farmers were conducting a “bungkalan” or land cultivation. It’s a way of asserting their own rights on the land that should have been distributed to these farmers and yet landlords refused to do so and the government has yet again failed to provide a genuine agrarian reform. After the massacre of the farmers in Sagay, the lawyer, Atty. Benjamin Ramos, who provided assistance to the bereaved families was also shot dead.

Fourteen years ago, due to extreme exploitation and oppression in Hacienda Luisita, which is owned by a very powerful political Aquino-Cojuangco clan, the farmers started to protest but were met with army and police units where they were able to suppress the farmers through brutal attacks. As a result, farmers were killed, hundreds were injured and 133 were arrested. Until today, Hacienda Luisita farmers don’t have their own land to till and are still heavily exploited by the landowners.

I will be focusing on the area of Mindanao in the South of Philippines. But there is also presence of mining in the North provinces such as Cagayan. In fact, last April 29, Father Mark Anthony Ventura who was known for his anti-mining advocacies and championing the rights of the Indigenous People, was shot dead after a Sunday Mass. This is just one of the many recent extrajudicial killings under the Duterte regime.

Various Canadian mining corporations operate in Mindanao. Toronto Ventures Inc Resource Development operates in an open pit gold located in Mt. Canatuan which is a sacred mountain of Subanon Indigenous group. They refused to acknowledge the mountain as sacred but in May 2011, TVI finally recognized Mt. Canatuan as sacred to the Subanon population. The Mindoro Resources operates in a lake called Lake Mainit. St. Augustine Gold and Copper Ltd is in Compostela Valley. And many other big mining industries are found in Mindanao.

The Lumad are also being displaced from their ancestral lands to accommodate the large-scale mining operations. They displaced them by increasing military presence in the name of enforcing peace and development. These include the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the police force, and the paramilitary forces such as the Investment Defence Forces (IDF), Special Civilian Armed Auxiliary (SCAA), and also the Task Force KITACO which is a special task force created to oversee and secure areas where SMI-Xstrata’s mining project operates. They are tasked to support the AFP in getting rid of armed and non-armed oppositions to any government projects including large-scale mining activities.

The Toronto Ventures employs the SCAA which is trained and supported by the Philippine military but funded by the company. In 2004, a guard open fired during an unarmed picket and the company stated that the guard was acting in self-defence as the picket was violent.

There was a case in 2012 regarding the Capion Family in Cotabato. They are from the B’laan Indigenous group and in 2012, Juvy Capion and two of her sons were killed by the elements of the 27th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Military. Her husband was an anti-mining tribe leader going against Sagittarius Mines, Inc., and they were arguing that they did not give their Free, Prior and Informed Consent to the said company. Now the military said, in their defence, that they were attacked by armed men organized by Juvy’s husband.

If you go against the mining companies taking your land for profit, if you go against the State which is supporting these capitalists, and if you go against the military who are protecting the elites and the interests of foreign companies, you are considered as an enemy of the State and should be silenced. Not only are we being killed by these systems of exploitation but we are also being killed by its environmental consequences.

But these are all met with growing resistance, people are starting to be critical of these issues, on how these are affecting them may they be a Filipinos in Canada, or non-Filipinos who are concerned and want Canadian companies conspiring with the Philippine government to be accountable for the human rights violations they committed.

Let us all fight the tyranny looming in the Philippines, let us all be in solidarity with the victims by joining the movement. To end this, I want to quote what we always say “The people united will never be defeated!”

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(Aisha Kaalim is a student of International Development program at University of Toronto-Scarborough.)